01/11/2014 09:43 EST | Updated 01/25/2014 04:01 EST

Poll Suggests Canadians Slightly Prefer Trudeau For Prime Minister


His party is polling ahead of its rivals and his approval ratings are miles ahead of the prime minister.

But do Canadians think Justin Trudeau is the better man for the job?

Every week, Nanos Research polls 250 Canadians on their views of the major parties and their leaders and releases a report compiling the rolling results of the 1,000 Canadians polled over the preceding month. Much of the focus is usually on what Nanos calls the 'Party Power Index', a score derived from a combination of questions on party perceptions.

But tucked away at the end of the report is the question of who Canadians prefer as their choice for prime minister.

The latest rolling poll, including responses taken between Dec. 6 and Jan. 3 and released earlier this week, gives Trudeau 29 per cent support on this question. That puts him two points ahead of Stephen Harper, and 10 points up on NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair. Elizabeth May comes in fourth at five per cent.

That is a very close margin between Trudeau and Harper, but since Nanos is polling every week we get an indication of how consistent that marginal advantage has been.

From August to the beginning of November, Trudeau polled ahead of the prime minister. For a few weeks in November, Harper had the slight advantage. But in the last three weekly reports from Nanos, Trudeau has been at the top of the list.

The evolution of Mulcair's numbers on this topic is, perhaps, more interesting.

From August to November, only around 16 per cent of Canadians said the NDP leader was their choice to be PM. But Mulcair's numbers began to increase in November. By the end of the month, 20 per cent of Canadians thought he was the best man for the job.

This spike coincided with the NDP leader's strong performances in the House of Commons, where he grilled Harper on the Senate scandal. Though his party did not see a bump in the polls at this time, it appears it did improve Mulcair's standing in the eyes of Canadians.

In addition to this question, Nanos also asks whether Canadians think each leader has the qualities of a good leader. There is not much difference in their responses, with Trudeau and Harper both at 52 per cent in the last report and Mulcair at 48 per cent.

But here again we see the possible influence of the Senate scandal. Mulcair's numbers improved from 43 per cent to 51 per cent at the height of the controversy, while Harper's score dropped from 57 per cent to as low as 48 per cent. Though their numbers have snapped back a little in both cases it does appear the two leaders' handling of the scandal has had an effect. Canadians now see Mulcair better and Harper worse than they did at the end of the summer.

We will see in the coming months if this perception is settling into the minds of Canadians or whether it was a momentary change of heart. If the events of the fall of 2013 have a lasting effect on the standing of Harper and Mulcair, that could have important consequences on how things turn out in the fall of 2015.

Éric Grenier taps The Pulse of federal and regional politics for Huffington Post Canada readers every week. Grenier is the author of ThreeHundredEight.com, covering Canadian politics, polls and electoral projections.

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